Small vessel ischemic disease

Small vessel ischemic disease places a patient at an increased risk of having a stroke. It is usually seen in people who have other medical conditions including high blood pressure or diabetes.

Knowing what small vessel ishemic disease is and how it is treated can help patients feel more comfortable and assertive with regard to their health care and lifestyle.


Small vessel ishemic disease is also called white matter disease and refers to a finding on an MRI or a CAT scan. Small vessel ischemic disease is actually a byproduct of other diseases and the impact that those diseases have on the brain's white matter. Unlike a disease of the brain itself, it is what happens to the brain during the progression of certain chronic conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure.


The area of the brain that is affected by small vessel ischemic disease is where the brain cells and the neurons are connected. The tiny vessels that bring blood flow to that area are called small vessels, while large vessels bring blood flow to large organs including the heart, kidneys and lungs. The small vessels are usually the first areas affected by blood vessel disease including the development of atherosclerosis which is a build up of plaque which can lead to stroke.


As people age, some small vessel ischemic disease is expected to appear on an MRI or CAT scan, but when seen in larger amounts it is an indicator that other medical conditions are present, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's or Wilson's Disease. People with a history of migraine headaches, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also more likely to present with small vessel ischemic disease in their test results. Regardless of the cause of small vessel ischemic disease, people who have it are at a higher risk for stroke, therefore, they are encouraged to take preventive measures before a crisis occurs.


There are several steps one can take to slow the progression of small vessel ischemic disease including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. Whether one chooses to reduce these numbers using diet, exercise, medicine or a combination of these elements make sure to develop the program under the supervision of a physician. In addition, diabetics should get their diabetes under control. Working with a dietitian or nutritionist can help one learn how to attain a healthy blood sugar level and maintain it. While there is not an actual medication for small vessel ischemic disease the medications to reduce risk factors including cholesterol, insulin and hypertension medications should be taken as prescribed and regular check ups should be conducted to determine if the medications are working or if an adjustment is needed. While surgery can be performed on large vessel ischemic disease it is not an option with small vessel ischemic disease.


When medical evaluations report that a person has small vessel ischemic disease it can create a sense of anxiety and concern due to the increased risk of stroke those findings indicate. Adopting a lifestyle that targets healthy eating, reductions in blood sugar and blood pressure and having routine check ups can not only ease the impact of small vessel ischemic disease but also benefits the body in many other ways.